George Washington would have loved it if his troops at Valley Forge could have dined on golden roasted chicken hot from the oven. That was in winter, however, and now it is summer, so for a glorious warm-weather twist to the chicken theme we have chicken salad.

Not just any chicken salad, either. Be it roasted, poached, grilled, baked, smoked or even pan saute'ed, chicken can be prepared for salad in many ways. Yet, delicious as they all are, in summer the number one priority may be ease of preparation -- without any diminishing of appealing options for final preparation.

A nearly effortless way to arrive at chicken for salad is to buy a large (about 3 pounds) chicken breast (available packaged separately or cut from a roaster). Rub the breast with a little vegetable oil and push a few fresh herb sprigs between the skin and the flesh and roast it. Once cooled, the succulent chicken is easy to shred by hand and takes well to flavoring with chunks or shreds of vegetables, minced fresh herbs, diced ripe fruit, slivered ham, and so on. The salad, I have found, has a far superior texture and absorbs the dressing better if the chicken is torn into pieces rather than diced or cubed.

For a crowd, simply bake several breasts at once; most times, a standard roasting pan can accommodate two breasts, with room enough for the oven heat to circulate. Following are the method for roasting chicken breasts and an assortment of salads that use the cooked bird:

OVEN-ROASTED CHICKEN FOR CHICKEN SALAD

(Makes about 3 1/2 loosely packed cups hand-shredded chicken)

1 large, whole bone-in chicken breast (about 2 1/2-3 pounds), from a large roaster

4 small sprigs fresh tarragon

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Pat dry the chicken breast. Carefully separate a few inches of skin from each side of the chicken breast with your fingers, creating a pocket on either side of the breast bone. Tuck two sprigs of tarragon underneath the skin on each side. Massage the skin with the oil.

Place the chicken in a small roasting pan and bake in a 375-degree oven for about 55 to 70 minutes, or until cooked through. Let the chicken stand at room temperature for 1 hour or until the juices retreat and the chicken is cool enough to handle.

Remove the skin from the breast; discard the tarragon. Cut off the meat from each side of the breast bone. Hand-pull the chicken into long, irregularly shaped shreds. The chicken is now ready to be made into salad.

Per 1/2-cup serving: 268 calories, 50 gm protein, 0 gm carbohydrates, 6 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 138 mg cholesterol, 119 mg sodium.

CHICKEN SALAD WITH PEARS

(4 servings)

The sliced pears are a soft and fruity counterpoint to the chicken.

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1 teaspoon good mustard, such as Dijon

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

1 recipe Oven-Roasted Chicken for Chicken Salad (see above)

2 firm but ripe pears, peeled, halved, cored and sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Blend together the mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken and pears; toss carefully but thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Note: The chicken salad, without the addition of pears, may by made up to 1 day in advance; refrigerate it in a tightly covered container. Add the pears just before serving.

Per serving: 377 calories, 36 gm protein, 14 gm carbohydrates, 19 gm fat, 4 gm saturated fat, 109 mg cholesterol, 211 mg sodium.

CHICKEN SALAD WITH CHUTNEY AND SCALLIONS

(4 servings)

Chunks of ripe cantaloupe (about 1 1/3 cups) may be folded into the salad just before serving, if you wish.

2 tablespoons mango chutney

2 tablespoons apple juice

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup minced scallions (use the pale green and white parts only)

1 recipe Oven-Roasted Chicken for Chicken Salad (see above)

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Blend together the chutney, apple juice, mayonnaise and scallions in a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Blend well. Serve immediately.

Note: The chicken salad, without the addition of parsley, may be made up to 1 day in advance; refrigerate it in a tightly covered container. Blend in the parsley just before serving.

Per serving: 398 calories, 36 gm protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 26 gm fat, 4 gm saturated fat, 112 mg cholesterol, 241 mg sodium.

TARRAGON CHICKEN SALAD

(4 servings)

A touch of hot mustard in the dressing is the secret ingredient in this classic salad.

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves

1/2 teaspoon hot prepared mustard

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1 recipe Oven-Roasted Chicken for Chicken Salad (see above)

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Blend together the mayonnaise, sour cream, tarragon, mustard and vinegar in a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Blend well. Serve immediately.

Note: The chicken salad may be made up to 1 day in advance; refrigerate it in a tightly covered container.

Per serving: 336 calories, 36 gm protein, 1 gm carbohydrates, 20 gm fat, 4 gm saturated fat, 110 mg cholesterol, 199 mg sodium.

HONEY-MUSTARD CHICKEN SALAD

(4 servings)

Spicy-sweet, this salad is a wonderful base for the addition of a handful of grapes, tart apple slices (such as Granny Smith) or cubes of ripe papaya.

2/3 cup yogurt

2 tablespoons honey mustard

3 to 4 squirts liquid hot pepper sauce

1 recipe Oven-Roasted Chicken for Chicken Salad (see above)

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Blend together the yogurt, honey mustard and hot pepper sauce in a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Blend well. Serve immediately.

Note: The chicken salad may be made up to 1 day in advance; refrigerate it in a tightly covered container.

Per serving: 219 calories, 37 gm protein, 2 gm carbohydrates, 6 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 101 mg cholesterol, 219 mg sodium.

CHICKEN SALAD WITH SLIVERED HAM

(4 servings)

Paired with hot biscuits or whole-wheat muffins, this chicken salad makes a fine light supper dish.

1/3 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 tablespoon chili sauce

1 teaspoon bottled steak sauce

1 recipe Oven-Roasted Chicken for Chicken Salad (see above)

1/2 cup honey-baked or maple-baked ham, slivered

2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Blend together the mayonnaise, yogurt, chili sauce and steak sauce in a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken, ham and parsley. Season with pepper to taste. Blend well. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 354 calories, 40 gm protein, 2 gm carbohydrates, 20 gm fat, 4 gm saturated fat, 117 mg cholesterol, 522 mg sodium.

CHICKEN SALAD WITH AVOCADO AND CILANTRO

(4 servings)

The chopped cilantro is a zesty contrast to the buttery avocado and creamy shreds of roasted chicken.

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

4 to 5 squirts liquid hot pepper sauce

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 recipe Oven-Roasted Chicken for Chicken Salad (see above)

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 ripe avocado, peeled, halved, pitted and diced

Blend together the mayonnaise, yogurt, cumin, paprika, hot pepper sauce, cilantro and lime juice in a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold through the avocado chunks. Serve immediately. Per serving: 378 calories, 37 gm protein, 5 gm carbohydrates, 23 gm fat, 4 gm saturated fat, 106 mg cholesterol, 192 mg sodium.

Consider these additions to a mayonnaise-dressed chicken salad:

Pineapple: Fold in 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks to the prepared chicken salad.

Pecan and Peach: Fold in 1 cup ripe, peeled peach slices and 2 tablespoons chopped, toasted pecans to the prepared chicken salad.

Grilled Onion: Fold in 2/3 cup slivered, grilled onions to the prepared chicken salad.

Dates: Fold in 1/4 cup coarsely chopped, pitted fresh dates to the prepared chicken salad.

"Salad Herbs": Blend in 1/4 cup finely chopped mixed fresh salad herbs (burnet, chervil, summer savory, parsley) to the prepared chicken salad.

Capers: Quickly rinse 2 1/2 teaspoons tiny nonpareil capers in cool water; drain, pat dry and chop. Blend the capers into the prepared chicken salad with 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves.

Roasted Red Pepper and Olives: Peel, core, remove rib and seeds of 1 large roasted red pepper. Tear into strips and fold through into the prepared chicken salad along with 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped oil-cured black olives.

Lisa Yockelson's most recent book in her series on country baking is "Country Cookies: An Old-Fashioned Collection."